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Hike-way To Hell
How I caused a fire and got "trucker's ass"

Blast Oregon Bureau

Bend, Ore. -- Last year at this time I was a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, or the A.T., for short. I was attempting to hike all 2,158 miles of it in the same year. The six and a half months I spent in the woods was one of those times in my life that I will always look back on with fond memories.

Even though I hiked solo, I was by no stretch of the imagination alone on the trail. Around 4,000 other thru-hikers began the trail last year, so there was no lack of company unless I made it a point to be alone. Two friends joined me during the first few days of the trip: Brian, a high-school friend who talked me into doing it in the first place, and Tiffany, my roommate who was then on spring break from college.

"I found it funny the way I adjusted from life as a substitute teacher living in suburbia to that of a long-distance hiker."
I hiked the trail south to north, so for me it all began in northern Georgia, on Springer Mountain in Amacalola State Park. And it ended 13 states later in the central Maine wilderness. Looking back at my novice days, I found it funny the way I adjusted from life as a substitute teacher living in suburbia to that of a long-distance hiker.

On the first day, I set out with Brian and Tiffany with my 50-something-pound pack to climb Springer Mountain. I had in no way prepared myself physically for my long trek and was even a bit out of shape as I made my way to the top.

I remember thinking how grueling it was and began to question my sanity in attempting to hike the entire A.T. By the time I reached the top, long after my friends, I was exhausted, demoralized and doubting myself, yet excited to be there and willing to inflict more of the same kind of pain on myself in order to realize my goal.

In the first week of hiking, I learned many things essential to a hiker's life. Before this trip, my longest forays in the outdoors were weekend camping trips, so I didn't know much about using lightweight gear or being environmentally friendly.

My first lesson was how to light my Whisperlite gas stove. First, I was told to prime it by letting a small amount of liquid fuel drip into the tiny pan below the burner.Then light it, and as the coil above heats up, open the gas line. I was then supposed to light the fuel to cook my pasta dinner.

That first night, however, I forgot to turn the gas valve off after priming, and the liquid overflowed the primer cup. When I lit it, the picnic table beneath it instantly caught on fire, causing everyone around to grab their belongings off the table in a hurry. I put the fire out soon enough, but wasn't able to stop all the teasing I got from friends, both old and newly acquired.

"Once, at a hostel where a friend and I were showering in adjacent stalls, I heard her scream, 'Oh my God! What's that all over my ass?!'"
It took a while for my body to adjust to the rigors of trail life. At first, I didn't notice any pain, other than stiff muscles and hot spots on my feet that threatened to become blisters. These never became a problem, as I doctored them immediately. The two most persistent physical problems were unanticipated but not uncommon, as I soon found out from other hikers.

The first problem was packrub. This occurred because as I walked, my pack would chafe my hips. Twenty-four days into my hike, my hips ached so much that I couldn't sleep on my sides. But that was a minor nuisance compared to the other, longer-lasting ill effect hiking had on me. I'm referring to what a friend dubbed as "trucker's ass."

Long distance hikers with traditional backpacks may experience this condition because of the way the pack is designed to rest on the small of the back. The pack covers part of the butt, causing it to stay sweaty throughout the hiking day. Like a trucker who's sitting for long periods of time, the hiker may develop a disgusting case of ass pimples. That's trucker's ass.

Once, at a hostel where a friend and I were showering in adjacent stalls, I heard her scream, "Oh my God! What's that all over my ass?!"

I started laughing and let her know that she wasn't alone in her unfortunate situation. What's a hiker-girl to do but grin and bear it and hope it goes away when she's finished with the hike?

See next issue for more of Christina's adventures on the Appalachian Trail.